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A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) looks at Australians' use of aged care services towards the end of their lives and finds that while some people only used aged care services in the year before death, others accessed services over several years.

According to the report, Use of aged care services before death, of the approximately 116,500 people aged 65 and over who died in Australia in 2010-11, 60% were current clients of aged care programs when they died. On average, the women were aged 85.2 years when they died, and the men were aged 81.5 years.

'Overall, 80% of people who died in 2010-11 aged 65 or over had used aged care in the 8 years before death,' said AIHW spokesperson Justine Boland.

'And 75% used an aged care service in the 12 months before their death.'

Almost half (47%) began using aged care more than four years before their death.

People who died aged 85 and older were much more likely to have used care before death than those who died at younger ages (91%, compared to 57% of people aged 65-74 at death).

In all age groups, there was increased take up of care in the last six months of life. This was particularly true of people who died aged 65 to 74.

Just over 10% of all program clients stopped using aged care in the last three months before death. This was possibly due to admission into hospital or specialist palliative care.

'The report also looks at the types of aged care services people used in the years before their death,' Ms Boland said.

The majority of program users (a little over 80%) first used community care, usually accessing the Home and Community Care (HACC) program. Permanent residential care was the first program used by 1 in 10.

It was fairly common for people to use only community care (40% of program users) or both community care and residential care (46%) in their last years of life. Just 10% only used permanent residential aged care.

'Permanent residential aged care was the final program used by over half (54%) of the people who used aged care, and a further 36% finished their care as a HACC client,' Ms Boland said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 18 March 2015

Further information: Ms Justine Boland, AIHW, tel. 02 6249 5124 mob. 0412 957 936

Full publication: Use of aged care services before death